What is customer engagement?

The definition of customer engagement is broad: it includes every positive interaction that a customer initiates with the brand, or with other customers. An engaged customer is someone that cares about what your company says and actively uses your product. They are part of your company’s journey and might perhaps become a brand advocate.

Engagement doesn’t just need to be between customers and employees or between customers and the product. An active community contributes to customer engagement too. Customers talking to other customers about best practices or industry news elevates your brand and builds awareness.

The importance of engaging customers

Engaged customers are good for business. A fully engaged customer generates 24% more revenue than the average customer, research from Gallup shows. They do this through a variety of ways.

They spend more money

Customers who frequently interact with your brand will spend more money than those occasional shoppers. Engaging customers keeps your brand in the forefront of their minds, making you the first brand they turn to when they are in need.

They are easier to retain

It costs more money to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. This is even truer when retaining a customer who is fully engaged with your company’s marketing and services. Because they understand what your brand stands for, and the value you offer and because they spend time building a relationship with you, they are less likely to churn.

They refer your company to their contacts

Engaged customers will tell people about their interactions with you. Whether it’s sharing a blog post or just recommending your product to a friend or family member, engaged customers can help market your product.

Customer engagement doesn’t just happen though. It requires brands to make a dedicated effort towards building something that customers want to engage with. That might be valuable content, a supportive community, an inspiring movement or a useful product.

The good news is that customer engagement is an upward spiral. As you pull customers in, they become more closely connected to your brand and they become even more engaged. The more engaged they are, the more they purchase and find more value. It’s a never ending, positively reinforcing cycle.

Drive customer engagement

5 simple ways to engage customers

Engaging customers doesn’t always need to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Here are five ways you can become more engaging to your customers and start building customer loyalty:

Be yourself on social media

Customers love seeing a brand’s personality on social channels like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. Share as much of your unique brand as you can, including behind the scenes look at your office culture. Customers will be able to identify with you and feel closer to your brand.

Ask questions and listen to the answers

One of the best ways to engage customers is to create a space for them to share their opinion. This is especially effective when it’s a space where employees are available to listen and respond. Whether that’s asking their thoughts about a new feature in beta, how they felt about a recent change or even casual questions about their interests, asking questions invites interaction.

Create useful content

Become an expert in the things your customers care about and help them learn about it. If you sell HR management software, provide job description templates and advice on how to recruit the best employees. If you provide email marketing software, create content that helps customers create beautiful emails (like templates or best practice guides). Helpful content will always find an audience and your customers will be keen to share it - they will boost their own visibility by sharing great content too!

Appreciate engaged customers

Give back to customers who take the time to engage and reward positive behavior. Say thank you when customers get in touch and provide small bonuses for customers that you see regularly interacting with your brand. That might be in the form of a handwritten note or a small discount for their next purchase. Simply expressing gratitude for your customers’ time is a powerful way to encourage further interaction.

Think omnichannel engagement

There are so many different places and channels that you can facilitate customer engagement through. You might commonly depend on email marketing if you work online, but you can also build engagement into your app, over social media, in person at events and basically any other format you can think of! Surround your customers with positive opportunities to get in touch and they’ll have no other option but to chat with you!

Developing a customer engagement strategy

There are no foolproof formulas to customer engagement as every customer base will require their own unique strategy. However, leading with a mix of empathy and genuine interest in the needs of your customers will put you on the right path.

Step 1: Define actions

Using the metrics you’ve defined as your success benchmarks, identify the company actions that will drive these behaviors. Outcome metrics are lagging indicators - when customers are engaged, then these outcomes will happen. Developing a strategy involves coming up with leading indicators that will result in the desired outcomes.

To understand what actions will drive desired results, consider what your customers already show interest in. Are they asking questions during the sales process? Can you provide content that answers those questions for other customers? Are customers already having conversations about you in communities? Can you harness that energy on a company-owned site, or get involved? Follow what customers want and need and come up with a customer engagement strategy that works for your specific customer base.

Remember, customer engagement is a two-way street - if you start sending content at your customers that they aren’t reading or responding to, that’s not customer engagement. That’s just a one-sided conversation. For true customer engagement, customers have to choose to interact with you.

Step 2: Roll out strategy

Customer engagement is the responsibility of the entire company - not just one department. In order to connect with customers, every department needs to be invested in breaking down the walls between customer and company.

Getting every team involved with customer engagement requires aligning every teams’ priorities. Usually, this means setting KPIs for each department that contributes to the company goals of customer engagement. For example, the marketing team could be measured on interactions between customers and marketing material like e-book downloads. Product teams might be measured on the interest in a new beta program. And every department will play a role in improving the Net Promoter Score.

Step 3: Measure success and evolve

One you’ve started rolling out your strategy, you’ll need to measure your success. Assuming every department is fulfilling their part of the plan, how effective are your activities in engaging customers?

If you start to see customer engagement increase, you’re doing something right. Invest more heavily in the strategies that are working, and experiment with new ones.

If your activities are not improving customer engagement and customers are staying quiet and uninterested, don’t despair. Building a highly engaged customer base takes time, patience and consistency. If the strategy you’ve put into place isn’t delivering results, be okay with trying new ideas and get creative. Your customers want to like the businesses they give money to - they will connect with you one day.

Measuring customer engagement

Some strategies for engaging customers are more impactful than others. How do you know what’s working, what’s worth doing and what customer engagement strategies are falling flat? You need to measure the return on investment by determining if your actions are driving the customer behaviors you want to impact.

Identify what engagement means to you

While the definition of customer engagement is vague and open to interpretation, your metrics that you use to measure it for your company shouldn’t be. Define exactly what you want to achieve with a customer engagement strategy before you decide what activities to fund.

Engagement can take many forms, so it’s important to decide what behaviour you want to drive. Does more activity in the product keep customers around longer? Or do you want to build a customer community so that you can provide many-to-many customer support by putting your power users to work.

By outlining your desired outcomes, you can start identifying the metrics that measure your progress towards improving customer engagement.

Metrics to measure customer engagement

Active community members

Measure how many customers visit, post and interact in your community forum weekly or monthly. As customers become more engaged in the community and find more value, you’ll see this number increase.

Social media activity

Measure how many mentions your brand receives on Twitter, replies, and comments each post receives. If you’re creating content that resonates with your audience, you’ll see more customers interacting with it and your customer engagement will increase.

Customer referrals

Engaged customers will tell your family and friends about you and spread the word. This should mean you’re seeing more leads and purchases from referrals. Using referral codes is one way to track whether referrals are increasing, but you can also ask new customers how they heard about you.

Email opens and click-throughs

If you send out an email, whether it’s a newsletter, a promotion or a company update, only customers who are engaged will actually open it and click through any calls to action (CTAs). By measuring the success of your email marketing strategy, you can understand whether customers are interacting with your company, or if they are just sending the emails to the trash.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

While NPS is traditionally a measurement of loyalty, customer engagement and customer loyalty go hand in hand. A more engaged customer is very likely to be a more loyal customer. Running NPS surveys can help identify how customer engagement impacts overall customer loyalty. In fact, even just responding to an NPS survey is an indicator of engagement.

Retention and churn

Ultimately, increasing customer engagement should keep your customers around for longer. This is often called the “stickiness” of your products. Customers will open their wallet for a company they are engaged with. Is your customer engagement strategy keeping customers around and spending more money?

The role of the customer service team in customer engagement

We often work to reduce the amount of contact we have with customers. We try and resolve tickets in just one touch (called first contact resolution). We try and reduce the number of times that customers need to talk to a human to get help, instead leaning on intuitive products and self-service. It can seem like the goals of customer service teams are often at odds with the desire to become more engaged with our customers.  

But that is not the case at all. Instead of trying to drive any engagement at all, we need to focus on driving positive customer interactions - the kinds that customers want to have and that add value to their experience.

Proactive Support

One way of developing positive interactions with customers is by using proactive support to help customers before they run into an issue. This might be through onboarding, best practice guides, or early warnings. Because customers haven’t actually had a problem yet, these interactions are a positive experience. You get to talk with customers and they feel taken care of. This interaction boosts the customer’s perception of your support team from someone that they have to talk to, to someone that they get to talk to.

To find where you might be able to start offering proactive support, look at the customer support inquiries coming into your helpdesk. For each type, think “is there anything we could have done to prevent this customer from having this issue?” If the answer is yes - you have a new proactive support idea!

Surprise and Delight

In customer service, we want to try and balance out every negative interaction (an angry phone call, a bug report or a frustrated email) with a positive one. But finding opportunities to create a genuine positive moment can be difficult when we’re focused on resolving issues. This is where a surprise and delight strategy can come into play.

Surprises are more effective than expected bonuses or gifts. For example, if a customer submitted a customer service ticket and after it was resolved they received a note from the customer service agent thanking them, they’d be happy. But if a customer receives a handwritten note for no reason at all, simply thanking them for being a customer - that means a lot more.

Collecting Feedback

Sometimes, customer engagement won’t start off feeling positive. A customer reaches out to you asking for a new feature or complaining about how your product functions. But customer feedback - the opinions your customers choose to share with you - is actually a sign of high customer engagement.

Only customers that truly care about your company (and its value to them) will take the time to submit customer feedback. The unengaged customers are the ones that stay silent - even when they aren’t happy.

To encourage more customers to submit feedback, make it clear how important it is to your team to hear what your customers think. Offer a number of places and channels for your customers to contact you with feedback. Whether it’s an opportunity for in-app feedback, proactive chat on your website, or just an easily accessible email - offering customers a quick way to let you know what’s on their mind will drive customer engagement with your customer service team.

But customer feedback only really becomes a positive customer interaction when customers feel like they are being heard. That means responding to the customer, thanking them for taking the time to write in, and then doing something with their opinions.

If you aren’t going to incorporate their feedback - that’s fine. But make it a positive experience nevertheless by taking the time to explain your reasoning and perhaps offering another alternative for them. Encourage them to get in touch again, and let them know how much you appreciate them spending the time to share their thoughts.

If you do decide to use their feedback to make changes in the product, be sure to close the loop and let customers know when their ideas have been incorporated, or if their thoughts have lead to changes. There’s nothing more gratifying for a customer than seeing their ideas actually being put into practice. That kind of interaction will lead to a loyal customer for life.

Building Community

Sometimes customers want to talk about your company with people who aren’t affiliated with your brand. Facilitating a customer community where power users can assist newer customers with best practices and share insights from your industry is a great way to power customer engagement.

You can support an existing customer community by sponsoring meetups or hopping into general forums on Reddit or into Twitter conversations. These customers are already engaged enough with your community that they’ve started their own forum to discuss.

If a place doesn’t already exist for customers to discuss best practices, you can create a customer community forum and recruit users to start the discussion. Starting a community from scratch takes time, consistency and dedication. When you start, it might seem very quiet and you might even need to encourage customers to start joining in the conversations with giveaways and rewards. But if you stick with it, you’ll see a core group of engaged customers take charge and make the community their own.

Providing great customer service

Perhaps most importantly, the customer service team’s role in customer engagement is to keep the door open for customers to connect. If a customer receives terrible service, they aren’t likely to want to engage further with a brand. However, if the experience when contacting support is always pleasant, it’s much more likely that the customer will want to continue working with your brand.

Build Better Relationships with a Customer Engagement software

Don’t shut customers out! Build as many ways for your customers to get closer to your business as you can. The more opportunities to connect, the more likely you’ll inspire one of your customers to do so. The benefits of customer engagement are huge. You’ll be gaining more loyal customers who volunteer their feedback and widely recommend you to their friends and family.

But remember - a disengaged customer is not lost forever. By offering the right opportunities for them to come back and consistently extending new ways for them to get involved, you can turn around even the most disconnected customer. It only takes one meaningful positive interaction to get them back on the upward spiral of growing customer engagement.

Support customers everywhere

Provide support on Facebook and Twitter without leaving your helpdesk. In an age where 2.6 billion people use social media to actively communicate, offering customer support where your customers need it is of paramount importance.

Support customers everywhere

Knowledge base repository

Create a knowledge base of FAQs and useful tips so that customers can find the answer to their questions without having to contact your support team. This gives your customers the power to solve their own issues and also reduces the number of tickets your helpdesk receives.

Knowledge base repository

Community forums

Create a platform where customers can interact with you, each other and help each other out with tips and insights. How customers feel about you can be a decisive factor when a prospective buyer is considering your brand.

Community forums

Instant customer support

Email can only go so far in managing customer support for a business. When customers are looking for answers to critical issues, an email just won’t cut it. With the Freshdesk Messaging integration, you can provide customers that need instant answers with concise replies in real time.

Instant customer support

Resources to boost your customer engagement strategy